Ariel Miranda: Human Fucking Jugs Machine

Apparently, durability gets you the utmost praise in the Mariners organization nowadays.  The Mariners just traded for someone named Mike Leake from the St. Louis Cardinals for a minor league infielder and cash.  Cash towards the international free agent signing market and just plain ol’ cash to offset Leake’s high contract.  He’s apparently owed $53 million after this year (counting a $5 million buy-out in 2021), and the Cardinals have forked over $17 million, meaning the Mariners essentially have Mike Leake on a 3-year, $12 million deal.

So, who is Mike Leake?  Well, he’s a career National League pitcher who got his start in the Bigs in 2010.  Since 2012, he’s made at least 30 starts per year, peaking in the first half of 2015 before he was traded from the Reds to the Giants.  He signed as a free agent with St. Louis in 2016 and has seen a sharp decline in his abilities.  Or, maybe just his results, but I’m willing to bet it’s both.  This year, he’s 7-12 with a 4.21 ERA, so he immediately becomes the Ace of the Seattle Mariners.

And, of course, right there in Jerry Dipoto’s quote, he calls Leake, “one of the most durable starters over most of the last decade.”  That’s the bar you have to clear to make it on the Mariners, because this season can seriously go fuck itself.

Ariel Miranda, about to give up another home run …

Ariel Miranda is another one of those durable types.  He tends to get lavished with praise for the simple ability to not land on the DL, though less praise is coming by the start, because YEESH is he fucking terrible.

Staked to a fucking 6-2 lead, Miranda proceeded to fuck that all away and couldn’t even get through the fifth inning in the process, giving up 4 MORE home runs, to put him at a Major League-leading 35 on the year, in 27 fucking starts, or nearly one and a third home runs per start.

That’s what you get when you combine a shitty fastball with a shitty arsenal of off-speed pitches and a general shitty command of all of it.  Fastballs in the 91 mph range might be considered “average”, but to me they’re shit.  Anything below 94 mph – if you don’t have a significant amount of movement – is a worthless fastball at the Major League level.  You’re only going to get swings and misses if you totally fool the hitter into expecting that you’re going to throw something else.  Combine that with a change-up that tends to float out over the middle of the plate more than dive towards the dirt, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the worst fucking pitchers in the league, from a homers-given-up perspective.

In case it wasn’t abundantly clear by now, THIS is the reason why he was a sixth starter heading into this season (before Drew Smyly got hurt), and THIS is the reason why the Mariners still have a lot of work to do before next year to shore up this rotation.  Because I don’t think we can afford to suffer through another year of Ariel Miranda making 30+ starts, unless he makes a dramatic improvement in his overall pitching presence.

You know what’s odd?  He doesn’t even necessarily get more homer-prone the second and third times through the lineup.  Of his 35 homers, 13 of them have been given up in the first inning, his worst inning by far.  He seems to settle down in the second inning, but this would still make him a miserable candidate for the bullpen, because out of the gate he’s throwing meatballs right down the middle of the plate!  After the second inning, he slowly but surely gets worse as the game goes on, until you get past the sixth inning, when the sample size is too small (ostensibly, if Miranda is pitching into the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings, he’s probably on top of his game that day, which is exceedingly rare).

So, yeah, the Mariners blew a 6-2 lead yesterday, ultimately losing 8-7.  David Phelps got injured again, probably because he was rushed back into pitching after his last DL stint.  Christian Bergman was used in a rare (for him) late-game, short-inning appearance, going 2/3 of an inning, giving up a hit and a walk before being pulled by Scrabble, who allowed the game-winning run to score on his only pitch of the day.

Just a perfect end to a disaster of a road trip.  5-7, including a 5-game losing streak to close it out.  The Mariners went 12-15 in August (not shocking, considering the road slate they were faced with) and have fallen 4 games back of the second Wild Card, behind the likes of Tampa, Texas, Baltimore, Anaheim, and Minnesota.

Day off today followed by a 10-day, 9-game homestand.  The M’s don’t have to travel any farther than the state of Texas the rest of the regular season, but considering all the teams (save Oakland) are legitimately better than us, I could see September being a real ball-buster.

Thank Christ football season is officially upon us starting tomorrow.  God Awgs!

Mediocre Baltimore Pitcher Shuts Out Mariners

Dylan Bundy.  Grandmaster D.  Plenty of teams have scored off of him.  In fact, in MOST GAMES teams have scored off of him.  But, with the Mariners in town – CLEARLY exhausted from this punishing road trip in this ridiculous August schedule – he was able to shut us out over 9 innings, allowing one infield hit, walking 2, and striking out 12.

Overused memes are overused …

I’m sure having Bundy throw 116 pitches will have no effect whatsoever on his arm, given his extensive injury history.

Yeah, I just think the Mariners are tired.  I think a 2-week East Coast road trip for a team from Seattle this late in the season is patently absurd and Major League Baseball should be ashamed.  Say what you want about the NFL, but at least they go to great pains to try to make a fair schedule for everyone; this bullshit where the Mariners have to play 21 out of 28 games on the road is some fucking next-level schedule trolling.

Still, the M’s picked a pretty shitty time to waste a quality start.  Erasmo Ramirez is on the roll of his life, with this his fourth game where he’s gone 6 innings while giving up 3 runs or less.  To wit:  6 innings, 5 hits, 2 walks, 2 runs, 7 strikeouts.  I don’t want to know how the sausage is made; I don’t want to hear about how unsustainable it is; I just want to sit here and enjoy it.  Obviously, it won’t last, but given the state of this rotation – where we’re about to go a full turn without a win – you have to try to appreciate the little things or you’ll lose your fucking mind.

But look, the pitching staff is what it is.  I hate to give another spin to this broken record, but this team is obviously only going to go as far as the offense will take it.  I get that sometimes you just don’t have it, but this is absolutely a game the Mariners should have won.  You’re telling me you can’t get three runs across on Bundy?  I know the game ended up 4-0 in favor of the Orioles, but if you push across three runs in six innings, then you’re looking at the teeth of the Mariners’ bullpen, not the likes of James Pazos and Casey Lawrence.  This is absolutely a missed opportunity, and one of the many games we can all look back on when the M’s miss out on the second Wild Card by a single game.

The Mariners try to salvage a 6-6 road trip this afternoon with Ariel Miranda going on get-away day.  Ubaldo Jimenez is as bad as it gets, so if the M’s can’t score any runs today, then I fucking quit.

Mariners Gag Away A Heartbreaker As Marco Gonzales Pitches Himself Out Of A Job

You can’t say the kid was robbed of his opportunity.  After getting his feet wet in Tacoma, the Mariners called him up at the beginning of the month; he’s had 5 starts in the month of August.  In exactly 0 of those starts did he go a minimum of 5 innings.  His ERA is 7.40 in that span, he’s averaged almost a homer-allowed per start, he gives up a ton of hits and for a guy who’s supposed to be known for his control, he sure does walk a lot of guys.  His change-up is supposed to be his best pitch, but boy do I see him leave that hanging out over the middle of the plate more than I see him striking guys out with it.

With his latest huge embarrassing failure yesterday – 3.1 innings, 5 runs – I think we’ve finally seen the last of him in the rotation.  It’ll be September the next time his turn comes up in the rotation, which means rosters will expand and we can bring up someone from Tacoma like Sam Gaviglio, who can at least get us through five fucking innings.

And yet, in spite of all that, the Mariners managed to scratch and claw their way to a 4-3 lead at one point, as well as a 6-6 tie after Gonzales was pulled.  Ben Gamel was the big stud of the day, with 2 hits (including a homer) and 5 RBI.  Valencia, Seager, and Cruz all chipped in on the day as well.  Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t be perfect.  The Mariners NEED the bullpen to be perfect if they’re going to win games like these, but it’s just not realistic to see that come to fruition.  Christian Bergman did a yeoman job getting through 2 innings, giving up just the one run (particularly getting out of the jam Gonzales put him in in the bottom of the fourth).  Emilio Pagan got through the final 2.2 innings to save the rest of the bullpen, but he too gave up a run, and that ended up being the decider.  The Mariners put the first two runners on in the top of the eighth, but couldn’t push either of them home and that was that.

What was once a tremendous start to this road trip as late as last Friday, has suddenly taken a sour turn over this 3-game losing streak.  The Mariners need to win one of the next two games to ensure at least a .500 road trip, which I think we all would’ve taken around this time two weeks ago.  But, considering the M’s started out 5-2, ending up with a 6-6 or 5-7 road trip would be a collosal disappointment.  Here’s hoping Erasmo Ramirez and Ariel Miranda can work some magic to right the ship.

Mariners Lose Final Two To The Yankees

I’m not even mad, though.  I was so convinced the Mariners would be swept this series, winning 1 of 3 feels like a tremendous achievement.

Anyone wonder why we’re so wrapped up in the Mariners making the Wild Card, when it’s the Yankees we’ve got to look forward to?  Seems to me we’re just destined to keep losing to this team in the playoffs.

I didn’t watch very much of the last two games, as they both started at 10am and I had other shit to do.  Looks like I didn’t miss much.  The M’s are now 5-4 on this road trip, with the final three games in Baltimore starting tonight.  We’re still right there, 1.5 games out, tied with the Angels, half game up on the Orioles, full game up on the Royals, game and a half up on the Rangers and Rays.  Big series everyone!

Seahawks Again Look Good In Pre-Season Win Over Chiefs

All praise to the Wu Tang Clan, the Seahawks got out of this one injury-free!

Russell Wilson looks as good as I’ve ever seen him; let’s start there.  I thought he was extra mobile when he had to be, but also quick and accurate when the defense gave him something he could work with.  Another 200 yards and a TD as he led the Seahawks on 5 scoring drives.  Now, obviously, four of those ended with field goals, so there are some things the offense could clean up before they start dropping 50-bombs on fools.

The defense is looking as good as ever too!  Frank Clark is a man among boys; no joke, he could be an NFL Defensive POY candidate if he keeps going on this trajectory.  And, you know, he keeps his nose clean.  The rest of the starters looked on point as well.

Kansas City, you would think, with Alex Smith at the helm, would be the ideal offense to beat the Seahawks with dinks and dunks, but Alex Smith is no Philip Rivers.  Not as crisp, not as accurate.  Not for nothing, but he also had players dropping balls left and right, so I don’t know how I feel about that.  Can intimidation from an elite group of hitters cause guys to muff catches?  Actually, now that I say it …

The O-Line looked good.  Not perfect, but passable.  The running game was strong; I thought both Carson and Lacy were terrific!  McKissic also looked awesome against the reserves.  I still think we should find a way to keep him, for his utility if nothing else.

Props to Kearse and Graham for their huge catches in this one.  The WR group couldn’t get into the endzone until the backups were in the game, but I thought they contributed in a big way.

Also, David Bass absolutely needs to make this football team.

Finally, 4/4 for Blair Walsh.  You do you, son.

That’s about it.  It’s pre-season for the players, and it’s pre-season for your trusty neighborhood blogger as well.

Mariners With Just An Incredible Win Over The Yankees

Never in a million years would I have predicted this Mariners team could win a game in New York 2-1, let alone in extra innings, against THAT bullpen.  My oh my indeed!

I was in the downtown Seattle Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the Seahawks game, but I was so distracted by the little TV in the corner with the Mariners game on that I had to text my dad to have him DVR the football game, because I was missing too much.

I thought Ariel Miranda did a helluva job wiggling off the hook in a lot of self-inflicted jams.  4.2 innings isn’t anything to write home about, but he kept the Yankees off the scoreboard and that’s all you can ask when the games matter this much.

Kudos to Emilio Pagan for getting Miranda off the hook in that fifth inning and bridging the game into the seventh.

I thought Scott Servais did a terrible job putting David Phelps there in the eighth inning of a 1-run lead.  That’s Nick Vincent territory!  For the second time in a row, he brought Phelps into a VERY tough situation straight off the DL; how about a softer landing, huh???

So, yeah, it was a bummer that Phelps blew the save there in the eighth, but good on Vincent to keep the game tied at one and getting the game into extras.

Big ups to Mike Zunino for scoring the team’s only run against C.C. Sabathia with his solo homer to left.  7 innings of 1-run ball, with 5 hits, 1 walk, and 6 strikeouts for the ageless wonder.

Even bigger ups to Yonder Alonso for the go-ahead solo homer off of Aroldis Chapman of all people!  The M’s faced the teeth of the Yankees’ bullpen, loaded the bases on Dellin Betances, but couldn’t quite push the go-ahead run home in the top of the ninth.

And, closing it out, we have Edwin Diaz with his 30th save on the year.  That’s how you do it!

The M’s picked up a game on the Wild Card-leading Yankees, and are within 0.5 games of the Twins for the second Wild Card spot (having passed over the Royals and Angels with their losses tonight).  Two more games to go in New York; getting just the one victory was beyond my wildest dreams, so I don’t know what I’d do if we somehow managed to get two.  Early starts the next two days, so it won’t take long to find out.

What I’ll Be Watching In The Seahawks/Kansas City Game Tonight

Obviously, first and foremost, I’m gonna need no more demoralizing, soul-crushing injuries.  Okay?  This is obviously the big tune up before the regular season, where the starters play into the third quarter, and I just don’t fucking need the hassle.

With that obvious caveat out of the way, let’s talk about some shit.

I think we’re all pretty interested in the goings on of the offensive line, am I right?  In a vacuum, I think we’d like to see these guys take care of business, but this game features a pretty big test.  These aren’t your 2012 Chiefs; this front seven is for real.  Particularly off the edge, which means the spotlights are going to be shining pretty bright on Ifedi and Odhiambo.

No one is questioning Ifedi’s run blocking ability, but the dude needs to take a big step forward in his footwork and his balance in pass protection.  Too often he’s slow and too often he’s caught lunging at defenders, allowing them to swim right past him.  I don’t know how much Justin Houston or Dee Ford will play, but those guys are animals and I could see them giving us fits.

Pretty much everyone is questioning everything about Odhiambo’s game.  This guy is a virtual unknown when it comes to game action, and what little we have seen hasn’t been all that impressive.  I’m curious to see how he looks after a week as the starting left tackle, getting the lion’s share of the reps, and going into this game with the mindset of a starter.  I think it could be easy to get overwhelmed when you’re dumped into the fire in the middle of a game after the first team guy gets injured.  I mean, let’s face it, if Odhiambo was gearing up to play left tackle heading into last week, I’m sure he was preparing to go up against second and third teamers towards the end of the game.  I doubt he was going to be considered for action with Russell Wilson and Co. still in the game.

I have a very low bar for Odhiambo to clear here:

  1. Don’t get Russell hurt.
  2. Just be better than George Fant was in 2016.

See, I’m not asking for the moon and the stars here!  I’m not even saying, “Don’t let Russell get hit,” although that would be nice.  I’m just saying don’t let him get HURT.  If that means playing well, then obviously I’d take it.  If that means praying to your lord and savior, then do what you gotta do, but if we leave this game with Russell in any way shape or form at a reduced capacity, I’m going to be very upset.  And you don’t want to see me when I’m very upset (a lot of crying and ice cream eating).

Ultimately, I don’t even think 2016 George Fant was the worst starting left tackle I’ve ever seen (I might save that distinction for Brad Sowell, or some of the turds who took over for Walter Jones in the immediate aftermath of his career-ending knee injuries), but he was pretty bad.  What he had going for him was inexperience, in that once he gained a little experience, you had to figure you’d see some dividends paid.  Odhiambo at least has a pretty good amount of college experience.  He also has a year in the Seahawks’ system.  He’s not a rookie anymore, even though this is his first year starting.  He got out of 2016 healthy, should’ve put the work in in the weight room over the offseason, and ostensibly should be in the best shape of his life.  The fact that I haven’t read any stories like that is certainly cause for concern (that maybe he DIDN’T, in fact, put in the work in the weight room, and ISN’T in the best shape of his life), but I would have to think he’s at least somewhat stronger than he was as a rookie.

So, it’s all out there for him.  Just be better than 2016 Fant.  That SHOULD be good enough to get the job done, from a winning football team perspective.

With all the focus on the tackles, I’m going to just take for granted that the interior of the line will be fine.  No injury setbacks for Joeckel, Britt won’t dive at any other teammates’ legs, and the battle of Glowinski vs. Aboushi will finally be settled.  And maybe, just maybe, Ethan Pocic will force this team’s hand to start him as a rookie (though, based on his shaky performance last week, that seems unlikely).

It’s really kind of a bummer that we’ve got to face the Chiefs this week, as they figure to have a Top 10 defense this season.  Not that I don’t appreciate a good challenge heading into the regular season, but I also don’t like my players getting beaten up in a meaningless game.

Take, for instance, the running game.  I have no idea what’s going on with these running backs, but from what I’ve gleaned it sounds like both Rawls AND Prosise will be out for this game.  For those keeping track, Rawls played in the first game, got injured, and is still out; Prosise hasn’t even done that much.  I mean, at this point, it’s pretty silly to consider the running back position anything but a collosal letdown.  With roster spots at such a premium on this team, how can you afford to keep both of these guys when they can’t stay healthy for more than a game or two at a time?

Are we really going to drop perfectly good backs in Alex Collins and Mike Davis – workhorse types who bring a lot of different skills to the table, who also DON’T get injured every fucking week – just to keep around dynamic glass figurines in Prosise and Rawls?  I mean, yeah, I LOVE what those two can do with the football in their hands.  I think they’re both very special talents who could be Pro Bowlers in an alternate universe where they weren’t as soft as tissue paper.  But, we’re stuck in this stupid reality, and in this stupid reality Prosise and Rawls can’t be trusted.  Ipso facto, I know this isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but I think the team should cut them both so we can move on with our lives.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of wondering if those guys are going to come back next week or not.

Since that’ll never happen in a million years, I’ll be curious to see what Lacy and Carson can do.  Chris Carson might not be the most talented back on this roster right now, but I’m still putting it out there that I think he’ll be this team’s feature back in 2018.  I don’t even think that’s very hot of a take, to be honest!  I don’t think Lacy is all that good.  Sure, he’s a battering ram, and it’ll be fun to watch him wear defenses down in games where we’re leading comfortably in the fourth quarter, but Lacy isn’t talented enough to be a feature back.  I think he’ll struggle for the most part this year and he’ll find his way onto a different roster in 2018.  At that point, it’ll come down to Carson (who I figure will play quite a bit this year, with all the injuries & ineffectiveness ahead of him on the depth chart) vs. the dainty flowers that are Rawls and Prosise.  No contest.  Carson in 2018!

As for the rest of the offense, I’d like to see Jimmy Graham get zero snaps this week.  I’d like to see Doug Baldwin get very limited snaps (but, I’d also like to see him make Marcus Peters look foolish just once, because I like seeing Doug beat the best this league has to offer).  I’d like to see Kasen Williams get a TON of snaps with the first team offense, in hopes of building more of a rapport with Russell.  I’d also like to see J.D. McKissic get some play with the first unit.  See if he can play that Prosise role we keep talking about.  With his return ability (in spite of his muff last week), I’m really rooting for McKissic to crack the 53-man roster.

Defensively, I’m always drawn to the younger guys.  Naz Jones, first and foremost; I’d like to see him continue to build off of his first two games, which were both brilliant.  I’d like to see him get a lot of play next to Jarran Reed in the base defense, and I’d like to see both of those guys get some play in passing situations to see what they have to offer in pass rush up the middle.

Obviously, I’ll be watching Shaq Griffin.  He was picked on a lot last week, and I have to figure we’ll see more of the same again this week.  Of course, this is Alex Smith we’re talking about, so I have to wonder how much he’s actually going to throw to his wide receivers, but I have to believe it’s higher than zero times.  I can pretty much guarantee he won’t throw on Sherman though, so whatever poor sap the Chiefs line up on his side is going to have a quiet, boring day.

I’d also like to see some of our younger safeties get in there against KC’s first unit.  Kam and Earl don’t need to play 2.5 quarters; they’re good.  I’d be happy as a clam if they didn’t play a minute of this game.  On top of that, I’d like to see more of the free agent vets we’ve brought in:  Bradley McDougald and Tramaine Brock.  They need run with the first unit to better understand our system, and for the coaches to determine what they can do for this team.

I also find the battle for the last couple spots on the D-Line pretty fascinating.  Cassius Marsh is going into the final year of his rookie deal, and normally he’s been a beast in the pre-season.  But, he’s also normally been going against backups.  I’d like to see Marsh get more extensive play in the first half (again, guys like Avril and Bennett really don’t need to play 2.5 quarters; they good), and I’d like to see him really step up and earn a spot on this team.  Not just because he’s a good special teamer, but because he’s a weapon we can use in our pass rush package in games that matter!  Also, guys like David Bass, Marcus Smith, and Rodney Coe are probably all fighting for one roster spot.  They more they can do, at more positions along the line, the better their chances of making this team and contributing this season.

Finally, I want more of that shit-talking, fired up Blair Walsh shoving 50-yard field goals down opposing throats (but I’ll settle for him quietly going about his business, as long as he keeps making his kicks).

Big test in this one.  Honestly, this should be one of the best matchups of the entire pre-season, based on the quality of these two teams.  Both Seattle and Kansas City figure to be fighting for spots in their respective conference championship games, and quite frankly both of these teams COULD meet in the Super Bowl if everything breaks right.  I expect a hard-fought, tight battle of defenses through all four quarters, with infrequent bouts of offensive competence.

So, can you imagine how exciting it would be if the Seahawks go out there and kick their teeth in?

To Save Time: We Should Just Consider Everyone In The Mariners Organization As Day-To-Day

On the day when the Mariners DFA’d Leonys Martin for the second time this season, this time to call up David Phelps from the DL, Robinson Cano pulled up gimpy on a double with hamstring tightness (will have an MRI in New York today) and Guillermo Heredia had his wrist smashed in with a fastball (will have x-rays in New York today).  Both are considered Day-To-Day, of course pending their diagnostic exams.

The only good thing to come out of yesterday was the Mariners winning another series.  That brings them up to 4-2 on the road trip and if they can duplicate that next week, sign me up!

Erasmo Ramirez out-pitched R.A. Dickey.  I know, I’m as shocked as you are!  It didn’t look like that was going to be the case early, as Erasmo got into some first inning trouble (where have I seen that before?  Oh, that’s right, from every single other Mariners starter save Paxton) (no, really, someone, please save Paxton!!!).  He gave up a leadoff infield single, thanks to the ball hitting off of his glove that he feebly tried to field.  Segura was in position to make the out, which sets us up for the rest of the inning.  The next hitter singled to put runners on first & third, then a double scored the guy from third as the runner from first over-ran the bag at second and had to go back and touch it before moving on.  Erasmo got a grounder back to himself for the first out of the inning, which probably should’ve been the second out of the inning.  As such, the subsequent sac fly made the game 2-0 when it should’ve been 1-0 (or, maybe even 0-0, if what’s his name had the same trouble rounding second in this hypothetical situation).

Self-inflicted wounds.  Knowing where your defense is set up and letting your defense do its job.  This is all part of the over-arching problem with this team:  too many fucking brain farts!

Anyway, the M’s got it going in the second, with a Heredia sac fly and an Erasmo Ramirez RBI single down the right field line.  That wouldn’t be the only time Erasmo got a hit, either.

Those first inning runs wouldn’t be it for Erasmo either, as he gave up another run in the bottom of the second, but then he settled down splendidly.  He gave up all of 2 base runners over the next four innings to lock down the quality start.  After throwing a bunch of pitches the first couple innings, he left the game having only thrown 90; indeed, he was all set to come in for the seventh inning (a thought so foreign-sounding to this club, I didn’t think it was actually allowed in the game of baseball anymore), but the offense in the top of the seventh managed to put two runners on with two outs.  Rather than give Erasmo his fourth at-bat (remember, he was 2 for 3 on the day with an RBI), Servais opted to let Nelson Cruz pinch hit.  He would dribble a grounder to the pitcher for the final out of the inning.

Still, helluva game for Erasmo!  I don’t want to alarm anyone (are you sitting down for this?), but Erasmo Ramirez has three quality starts in his last three appearances.  I KNOW, RIGHT?!  That’s clinically insane.  I can unequivocally say that Erasmo Ramirez is the best healthy starter on this team right now.  The odds of me ever saying that EVER was about as remote as you can imagine, but there we have it.

Also, not for nothing, but isn’t it sad that I’m sitting here jerking myself off over a guy with three straight 6-inning starts?  I mean, look at what this pitching staff has reduced all of us to!

I assume you’re sitting there jerking yourselves off over this too, right?

In the bottom of the seventh, it looked like the decision to pinch hit for the pitcher was gonna backfire like a motherfucker, as the bullpen really didn’t have a lot going on.  Scrabble gave up an infield single, then his God-awful pickoff move allowed him to go to third base.  He walked the next batter before getting a strikeout and getting pulled from the game.  Servais opted to go to David Phelps, which seemed a bit rash, having this situation be his first appearance coming off of the DL, but with Zych gone beggars can’t be choosers.

At this point, the Mariners had long ago re-taken the lead at 4-3, thanks to some clutch hitting in the third inning.  But, since we failed to drive the final nail into Dickey’s coffin at the time, the game was still 4-3 when Phelps came in.  He ended up giving up a single to tie the game at 4, then a fielder’s choice gave the Braves a 5-4 lead.  At that point, with two innings to go, I was prepared for the worst.

Playoff teams CAN’T lose two of three to the lowly Braves; they just can’t!  Thankfully, the lineup answered the call.  Jean Segura busted out of a slump with a leadoff double.  Yonder Alonso followed that with a walk and both runners advanced on a wild pitch.  Then, Taylor Motter – hitting for Robbie, who left the game back in the third – dumped a 2-RBI single to left-center to allow the M’s to re-take the lead at 6-5.  Danny Valencia, getting the start in right field and batting cleanup, hit a single, followed by Kyle Seager’s mammoth 3-run home run to center to finally put this one to bed.

Nick Vincent started the eighth and got himself into a bit of a jam, and almost got himself out of it.  But, after giving up an RBI single with two outs, Edwin Diaz was called in for the 4-out save.  He would only need 12 pitches (11 strikes) to get the four outs (3 strikeouts) for his 29th save on the season (16 since the All Star Break).

So, yeah, that was huge.  Just as huge was the fact that the Twins and Angels both lost (the Royals won, however).  So, we’ve got the Twins still in the second Wild Card spot, the Angels and Royals a half game back, and the Mariners a full game back (with the Rangers two games back, and everyone else too far away to matter).

Today is another much-needed off-day (at this point in the season, they’re ALL “much-needed”).  We’ll also probably hear about Robbie’s hamstring and Guillermo’s wrist.  You have to figure more moves are going to be made (we’ll need another infielder if Cano is bound for the DL; the outfield is probably okay considering Valencia can play in right, so he can at least hold the team over for another week until September rolls around).

The first half of this road trip has been a huge boon for the Mariners, but the second half could still make or break it.  If the Mariners fall apart over the next six games – all against Wild Card opponents – it could get pretty dicey.

Please, dear God, don’t let Cano’s injury be too serious.

One Of These Days I’ll Stop Getting Excited Over Every Little Mariners Hot Streak

Well, that’s the second time in three days that the Mariners’ offense has been completely and totally shut down by an inferior starting pitcher.  That’s … less than ideal.

I won’t put the blame entirely on Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger, but it certainly doesn’t help that they’ve dropped a combined 150 points from their batting averages at their peaks earlier this season.  Haniger, particularly, hasn’t been the same hitter since he went on the DL the first time back in April.  I still don’t think he’s totally healthy, and I don’t think he ever will be the rest of this season, which is a shame.  He’ll certainly be a bounce-back candidate for 2018.  As for Gamel, I don’t want to say the league has figured him out, but it feels like he’s gone from being unsustainably lucky at the plate to being unsustainably unlucky.  He has nevertheless been on a down streak since his insane month of June, hitting .255 in July and hitting .159 so far in August.  That, quite frankly, is unacceptable, and I think it’s time for Guillermo Heredia to start playing a more everyday role for this outfield.

On the mound, Marco Gonzales got the start and was pretty good through four innings, giving up just the 1 run.  But, then the fifth inning rolled around, and you know the story.  By getting two quick outs to start the inning, it became the longest outing of his Mariners career, but then he gave up a walk and a single and that was that.  Of course, James Pazos came in and immediately gave up one of the inherited runners – because that’s what this bullpen does all the time, apparently – so Gonzales got stuck with a second run.  I don’t think it’s enough to cost him his rotation job just yet, but I do think he’s still treading on very thin ice and his next start – if it’s bad enough – could be his last.

Two more unearned runs followed, as the Braves shut out the Mariners 4-0.  The Mariners’ defense has been a fucking circus, with 6 errors over the last two games.  And it’s not like we have any one guy giving us fits; these bone-headed plays are thoroughly spread around the entire team.

Nelson Cruz got the start in right field yesterday and apparently the rest of the offense took that as a sign that they could take the day off.  Well, he went 0 for 4, but he didn’t injure himself, so I guess that’s a plus.  It makes no sense whatsoever to keep him out of the lineup because his defense is sub-par, because the rest of this defense has been a fucking disaster!  I wouldn’t want to press my luck here, so the smart thing to do is probably sit him later today.  However, losing this series to the Braves might just be this team’s breaking point this season, what with the Yankees on the horizon this weekend.

In Oh Yay More Injuries news, Tony Zych is on the DL with a flexor bundle or some damn thing.  Dan Altavilla was brought up, and pitched a couple quality innings last night (giving up just the one unearned run), so at least we were able to save the good arms in our bullpen.  David Phelps had a good pitching session the other day, and could be back as early as today, or as late as two days from now, so that’s a positive at least.  I don’t know the extent of Zych’s injury, but with the way he throws and with the way his arm keeps betraying him, he may have some mechanical issues that he needs to fix if he wants to keep playing the game of baseball long term.

It’s all on Erasmo’s shoulders tonight, as he goes up against R.A. Dickey.  I could see the Mariners’ offense exploding for double-digit runs, or I could see them totally handcuffed and unable to score at all.  This might be a game to avoid, all things considered.

The Mariners Cling For Dear Life Against The Braves

Albers are off when you’ve got Andrew Albers on the mound!

The Mariners have used, what, 37 different pitchers this season?  35 if you take out the two position players who had to mop up in extreme blowout defeats?  And, in that, we’ve got 16 different pitchers who made at least 1 start this year.  We’ve had injuries, BOY have we had injuries!  And, beyond that, we’ve had a whole lotta ineffectiveness.  From De Jong to Bergman to Overton to Heston to Whalen to Gaviglio to Moore to Gonzales to Gallardo and so on and so forth.  Aside from the injuries, there really hasn’t been anything we could depend upon with this rotation besides Ariel Miranda, I guess.  And, while we’ve had to muddle through all these starts to get back to the brief healthy times we’ve enjoyed, I’ve been sitting here and waiting.  Waiting and hoping.  Hoping and praying that just ONE guy would come up to Seattle and blow us all away.  Even if it’s the most unsustainable, unrepeatable string of starts, I DON’T CARE!  All these Quad-A pitchers have absolutely lived up to their mediocre expectations; can I just get one guy to surpass them, even if it isn’t real?

Well, we’re only two starts in, but there’s a lot I’ve liked about those two starts with Andrew Albers on the mound.  He came over in a nothing trade with the Braves a couple weeks back and immediately gave us 5 innings of 1-run ball against the Orioles (one of the plethora of teams we’re in Wild Card contention with).  And then he followed that up with last night’s performance.

Through five innings, he’d only given up 2 runs.  His pitch count was low, and the M’s had a 6-2 lead, so he was allowed to pitch into the sixth.  An error and a single ended his night without getting another out, and both of those runners ended up scoring after Emilio Pagan cleared the bases by allowing a triple to center, but that’s just bad luck more than anything else.  I thought Albers looked fantastic last night!  Of course, that’s based on the lowest of expectations, particularly when you consider all those meatball pitchers I mentioned above, but nevertheless it’s nice to have someone finally come around and exceed expectations for a while.  I hope it lasts.

It was nice to see the offense jump out early and play add on throughout the game.  The Mariners managed a run in the second, then after falling behind 2-1, poured it on.  Another rally in the third produced a run, and the M’s put up a 3-spot in the fourth on hits by Alonso and Cano.  Alonso would double again in the sixth to knock in our final run, which ended up being huge considering all the damage the Braves were able to do with Pagan on the mound.

Also, don’t look now, but Yonder Alonso has been on fire after something of a quiet start since joining the club and taking over for Danny Valencia at first.  He’s rocking an 8-game hitting streak, going 13 for 30 with 4 extra base hits, 6 runs scored, and 8 RBI.  I know the Mariners’ offense was pretty good before he got here, but you’ll always take those kinds of numbers.  I think an infusion of production like that is just what this team needed.  Yesterday especially, what with Nelson Cruz riding the pine (and not even getting a pinch hit AB, due to circumstances of the game) in the National League park.  God the National League’s rules are stupid (hashtag Embrace The DH).

Quick shoutout to the rest of the bullpen.  After Pagan got knocked around (he’s been a little dicey the last couple times out), Scrabble, Vincent, and Diaz came in and locked it down.  That’s 28 saves for Diaz.  And Scrabble has been nails over the last week or so, and really for the entire month of August.  As for Vincent, he’s the MVP of this pitching staff, without question.

So, not too bad of a start to this road trip.  That victory puts the Mariners at 3-1 through the first third of this trip; which, if they could just match that for the next 2/3 of this trip, sign me up TODAY!  Yesterday’s win also brought their road record to 30-30 on the season, which is pretty insane when you consider they started out the year 8-20.  Since that nadir in late May, after the second game in Boston, the M’s have gone 22-10 on the road.  Unbelievable!

That victory also puts the Mariners at an even 1 game behind the Twins for the second Wild Card.  Predictably, the Angels fell back and are now just 0.5 games ahead of the Mariners.  The Royals are still lingering, 0.5 games behind the Mariners; and the Rangers are too, just a game back of the M’s (tied in the loss column).

Looking ahead, there are two more games down in Atlanta before another off-day, featuring the two worst Mariners pitchers currently in the rotation – Marco Gonzales and Erasmo Ramirez.  Gonzales has yet to pitch over 4.1 innings and I have to believe is one more poor start away from being sent back to Tacoma, so today will be REALLY interesting.  Erasmo, meanwhile, is on a 2-game hot streak, so you have to wonder how long it will take for that house of cards to topple over.

Then, in the Yankees series this weekend, the Mariners have – in theory – their three best healthy starters going (Miranda, then Gallardo, then Albers again).  But, the Bronx Bombers feature C.C. Sabathia (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS fucking destroys us), Sonny Gray (the ex-A’s starter they traded for at the deadline), and Masahiro Tanaka (who ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS – except last time – fucking destroys us).  It could be a really yucky, miserable weekend, is what I’m saying.

So, Mariners, let’s try REAL HARD to win these next two against the Braves, so we can justify what’s surely going to be a series sweep this weekend.